By Leslie H. Dixon
PARIS — Anthony Russell, a junior, remembered his first day as a freshman at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School. He sat with other freshmen, listening to Principal Ted Moccia tell them how the next four years would “fly by.”
That’s about all he remembers.
In an effort to make the first day of high school fun, less stressful and more memorable for the hundreds of new freshmen, Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School began a Kick Off Program this year to help ease the students into high school.
“They get to see the school, have fun, learn that some upperclassmen won’t shove them into a locker. That was literally one of the biggest things they we’re scared of,” said Russell, an Oxford resident who was selected by staff along with about 50 junior and senior students to a mentor to a group of freshmen throughout the school year.
“This is the first year we’ve adopted the Kick Off Program, which is a national known mentoring program,” Michael J. Morrell, co-science department head and program adviser said. “Kick Off Day is intended to be a stress free orientation to the building, their faculty advisers and their Kick Off mentors. We want this program to help freshmen transition from the middle school to the high school and to develop positive relationships with the upperclassmen in the building.”
Jayden Colby, a senior mentor and South Paris resident, said planning began the day after the 2014-’15 school year ended in June. Mentors advised the parents of incoming freshmen about the program through telephone conversations.
“One of the biggest changes to this ‘freshman day’ was that it was entirely planned by students,” Colby said by email. “We planned it the way we would have wanted our first day to be.”
Colby said a previous typical first day for freshmen would involve going through class schedules with shortened class periods.
“We did not want this, as it it is boring and takes up the whole day,” Colby said. “We added a lot of fun to this day. In fact, we didn’t plan any academics at all.”
Russell added that each mentor was assigned five freshmen students to do a variety of first day, ice breaker activities intended to make the younger students feel comfortable.
The day started with a mini pep rally, where students sang the school song and cheerleaders cheered. Students then went out on the playing field for a game of tug of war.
Freshmen toured the school throughout the day. They visited the library, learned how the lunch lines work and where the nurse and guidance offices and kiosk are located. At the end of the day, Russell said the freshmen went out on the practice field to perform a dance they had learned earlier.
Russell said the day was a success for students who now have a mentor to talk to and learn the rules from — something he says will make a big difference.
“I’ve had at least eight or nine freshmen recognize me from mentor day and ask me for help finding lockers or classes, which didn’t happen at all last year. So I feel as if it makes school more comfortable for incoming freshmen,” he said.
Colby said she also felt the event was a huge success.
“I never imagined that 30 upperclassmen could convince a class of over 200 students to do a very silly dance in front of all their peers, yet we have pictures to prove it,” Colby said. “I’m looking forward to watching my group of freshman grow, and hopefully see the positive effects that this program has throughout the year.”